New evidence from 1967 war reveals Israeli atrocities | The Electronic Intifada

via New evidence from 1967 war reveals Israeli atrocities | The Electronic Intifada.

Ilan Pappe The Electronic Intifada 23 June 2015

Still from the film Censored Voices shows a former Israeli solider listening back to an interview, censored by the military after the 1967 war.  Noise Film PR

“In the operation we had to cleanse the inhabitants. This uprooting of a villager, rooted in his village and turning him into a refugee, by simply expelling him, and not one, two or three of them but a real eviction. And when you see a whole village is led like lambs to the slaughter without any resistance you understand what is the Holocaust.” — An Israeli soldier’s testimony in the documentary Censored Voices, directed by Mor Loushi (2015)

In the wake of the June 1967 war, the Israeli author Amos Oz, then a reserve soldier in the Israeli army, together with a friend collated interviews with Israeli soldiers who participated in the war and asked them about the emotions the fighting triggered in them. The interviews were published as a book titled Conversations with Soldiers, more popularly referred at the time by my generation as the ”shooting and crying” book.

The military censor (a function that still exists today, held recently by the present minister of culture, Miri Regev), erased 70 percent of the evidence since he claimed it would have harmed Israel’s international image.

This month an industrious Israeli filmmaker, Mor Loushi, is showing her new documentary based on most of this erased material. The atrocities reported by the soldiers include forced expulsions, like the one quoted above, graphic descriptions of summary executions of prisoners of war and hints of massacres of innocent villagers.

Evil repertoire

This 48th commemoration of the 1967 war coincided with the 67th commemoration of the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine before and after Israel’s founding in 1948. There is more than a symbolic connection here. The evil repertoire confessed by the soldiers in the new film reminds us of the atrocities perpetrated 67 years ago on a much larger, though similarly horrific, scale.

The 1948 atrocities were ignored by the international community and for a long time the entire Nakba was denied while the Holocaust memory seemed to provide carte blanche to Israel to continue the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

No wonder then, when in 1967 Israel’s territorial appetite was satisfied with the occupation of the whole of historic Palestine, as well as large territories from Egypt and Syria, it was achieved with the help of similar inhumane ethnic cleansing operations of expulsions and massacres.

There was one difference between the two chapters of atrocity committed in the two wars. In 1967, Israel was less secure about possible global, and even American, complacency in the face of its cruel methodologies on the ground and therefore attempted to hide them from prying eyes. The wall of secrecy Israel built, however, nearly cracked, when the US navy ship USS Liberty eavesdropped on the communications between the troops in the Gaza Strip on 8 June 1967, revealing probably both the summary execution of Egyptian prisoners of war and Palestinian civilians. The ship was destroyed on the same day from the air by the Israeli air force.

Later on, the atrocities were substantiated by eyewitnesses and came to the fore when mass graves were exposed in 1995 in the al-Arish area in Sinai, straining Egypt’s relations with Israel, as CNN reported at the time.

The network interviewed, for the first time, relatives and survivors of these war crimes who recalled the massacre of hundreds. The link between the unprovoked assault on the USS Liberty and the wish to hide the massacres and executions was thoroughly investigated by James Bamford in his 2001 book Body of Secrets.

Thus, the newly released tapes corroborate atrocities already known and told by those who were their victims (in this case, including 34 American navy personnel). This was very much in the same way as Israeli documents declassified in the 1980s corroborated the Palestinian oral history and testimonies of the Nakba.

Purifying the perpetrators

In both cases, it took a while for the victims’ version to be heard after years of being brushed aside by Western academia and the media as a figment of an oriental imagination.

The Israeli eyewitnesses in the new film do not mention names of places or dates — neither do we know who the Palestinian or Egyptian victims were. De-naming and dehumanization are two sides of the same coin and thus the new harrowing testimonies are cautiously presented as an act purifying the perpetrators rather than honoring the victims.

It is another case of “shooting and crying”: namely the problem is not that a girl lost her eye, a man’s house was demolished or an unarmed prisoner of war was executed. The aim is to cleanse the tormented soul of the victimizer and there is nothing like a good confession to make it all go away.

Names and dates, and even more so real human beings, require not only acknowledgement but also accountability. Saying sorry is not always enough, especially when the lesson is not learned. And, thus, year after year since 1967, including in recent weeks, Palestinians, with faces and names, are still expelled, imprisoned without trial and killed.

Permanent reality

This new film gives the impression that these crimes were the inevitable outcome of the June 1967 war. But in fact the crimes committed after the war were much worse in every aspect. The atrocities were not the outcome of the war, they were part of the means used by Israel to solve the predicament the new territorial achievement produced for the Jewish State: it incorporated in 1967 almost the same number of Palestinians it had expelled in 1948.

After the war, other means were added in the search for reconciling this predicament. The aim was still the same: to have as much of Palestine as possible with as few Palestinians in it as possible. The new strategy, after the war, was based on the logic that if you cannot uproot people you root them deeply in their areas of living without any outlet or easy access to the world around them.

The Palestinians all over Palestine were, since 1967, incarcerated in small enclaves surrounded by Jewish colonies, military bases and no-go areas that bisect their geography. In the occupied territories, Israel created a matrix of control many African National Congress leaders regard as far worse than the worst of apartheid South Africa. The Israelis marketed this method to the world as a temporary and necessary means for maintaining their rule in the “disputed” territories. The “temporary” means became a way of life and transformed into a permanent reality on the ground, for which Israel sought international legitimacy through the 1993 Oslo accords – and nearly got it.

This month as we commemorate the 48th year of the 1967, war we should remind ourselves once more that this was a chapter in a history of dispossession, ethnic cleansing and occasionally genocide of the Palestinians.

The “peace process” that began more than two decades ago was based on the assumption that the “conflict” began in 1967 and will end with Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The “conflict” had actually begun in 1948, if not before, and the worst part of it was not the 1967 military occupation of those parts of Palestine that Israel had failed to take over in 1948, but rather that the international immunity for these crimes still continues today.

One can only hope that those with the power to effect change in the world will understand, as did the soldier quoted in the opening of this piece, that there is more than one holocaust and that everyone, regardless of their religion or nationality, can be either its victim or its perpetrator.

The author of numerous books, Ilan Pappe is professor of history and director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies at the University of Exeter.


The Dark Saudi-Israeli Plot to Tip the Scales in Syria

via The Dark Saudi-Israeli Plot to Tip the Scales in Syria | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community.

Published on Tuesday, June 09, 2015

by Foreign Policy In Focus

The Saudis and the Turks are scaling up their support for Syrian jihadists while the Israelis contemplate a new war with Hezbollah.

by Conn Hallinan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Saudi King Salman meet in Riyadh to discuss Syria. (Photo: NRT TV)

A quiet meeting this past March in Saudi Arabia, and a recent anonymous leak from the Israeli military, set the stage for what may be a new and wider war in the Middle East.

Gathering in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh were Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, newly crowned Saudi King Salman, and the organizer of the get-together, the emir of Qatar. The meeting was an opportunity for Turkey and Saudi Arabia to bury a hatchet over Ankara’s support — which Riyadh’s opposes — to the Muslim Brotherhood, and to agree to cooperate in overthrowing the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad.

Taking Aim at Assad

The pact prioritized the defeat of the Damascus regime over the threat posed by the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, and aims to checkmate Iranian influence in the region. However, the Turks and the Saudis are not quite on the same page when it comes to Iran: Turkey sees future business opportunities when the sanctions against Tehran end, while Riyadh sees Iran as nothing but a major regional rival.

The Turkish-Saudi axis means that Turkish weapons, bomb making supplies, and intelligence — accompanied by lots of Saudi money — are openly flowing to extremist groups like the al-Qaeda associated Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham, both now united in the so-called “Army of Conquest.”

The new alliance has created a certain amount of friction with the United States, which would also like to overthrow Assad but for the time being is focused on attacking the Islamic State and on inking a nuclear agreement with Iran.

This could change, however, because the Obama administration is divided on how deeply it wants to get entangled in Syria. If Washington decides to supply anti-aircraft weapons to the Army of Conquest, it will mean the United States has thrown in its lot with Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar — and that the “war on terror” is taking a backseat to regime change in Syria.

Not that the Americans are overly concerned about aiding and abetting Islamic extremists. While the U.S. is bombing the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Obama administration is also training Syrians to overthrow Assad, which objectively puts them in the extremist camp vis-à-vis the Damascus regime. Washington is also aiding the Saudis’ war on the Houthis in Yemen. Yet the Houthis are the most effective Yemeni opponents of the Islamic State and the group called Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, against which the United States is waging a drone war.

The Turkish-Saudi alliance seems to have already made a difference in the Syrian civil war. After some initial successes last year against divided opponents, the Syrian government has suffered some sharp defeats in the past few months and appears to be regrouping to defend its base of support in the coastal regions and the cities of Homs, Hama, and Damascus. While the Syrian government has lost over half of the country to the insurgents, it still controls up to 60 percent of the population.

Turkey has long been a major conduit for weapons, supplies, and fighters for the anti-Assad forces, and Saudi Arabia and most of its allies in the Gulf Coordination Council, representing the monarchies of the Middle East, have funneled money to the insurgents. But Saudi Arabia has always viewed the Muslim Brotherhood — which has a significant presence in Syria and in countries throughout the region — as a threat to its own monarchy.

The fact that Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party is an offshoot of the Brotherhood has caused friction with the Saudis. For instance, while Turkey denounced the military coup against the elected Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt, Saudi Arabia essentially bankrolled the takeover and continues to bail Cairo out of economic trouble.

But all that was water under the bridge when it came to getting rid of Assad. The Turks and the Saudis have established a joint command center in the newly conquered Syrian province of Idlib and have begun pulling the kaleidoscope of Assad opponents into a cohesive force.

A War on Hezbollah?

Three years of civil war has whittled the Syrian Army from 250,000 in 2011 to around 125,000 today, but Damascus is bolstered by Lebanon’s Hezbollah fighters. The Lebanese Shiite organization that fought Israel to a draw in 2006 is among the Assad regime’s most competent forces.

Which is where the Israeli leak comes in.

The timing of the story — published on May 12 in The New York Times — was certainly odd, as was the prominence given a story based entirely on unnamed “senior Israeli officials.” If the source was obscured, the message was clear: “We will hit Hezbollah hard, while making every effort to limit civilian casualties as much as we can,” the official said. But “we do not intend to stand by helplessly in the face of rocket attacks.”

The essence of the article was that Hezbollah is using civilians as shields in southern Lebanon, and the Israelis intended to blast the group regardless of whether civilians are present or not.

This is hardly breaking news. The Israeli military made exactly the same claim in its 2008-09 “Cast Lead” attack on Gaza and again in last year’s “Protective Edge” assault on the same embattled strip. It is currently under investigation by the United Nations for possible war crimes involving the targeting of civilians.

Nor is it the first time Israel has said the same thing about Hezbollah in Lebanon. In hisSalon article entitled “The ‘hiding among civilians’ myth,” Beirut-based writer and photographer Mitch Prothero found that “This claim [of hiding among civilians] is almost always false.” Indeed, says Prothero, Hezbollah fighters avoid mingling with civilians because they know “they will sooner or later be betrayed by collaborators — as so many Palestinian militants have been.”

But why is the Israeli military talking about a war with Lebanon? The border is quiet. There have been a few incidents, but nothing major. Hezbollah has made it clear that it has no intention of starting a war, though it warns Tel Aviv that it’s quite capable of fighting one. The most likely answer is that the Israelis are coordinating their actions with Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

Tel Aviv has essentially formed a de facto alliance with Riyadh to block a nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 — the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany. Israel is also supporting Saudi Arabia’s attack on Yemen and has an informal agreement with Riyadh and Ankara to back the anti-Assad forces in Syria.

Israel is taking wounded Nusra Front fighters across the southern Syrian border for medical treatment. It’s also bombed Syrian forces in the Golan Heights. In one incident, it killed several Hezbollah members and an Iranian general advising the Syrian government.

The Realm of Uncertainty

The Saudis have pushed the argument that Syria, Iraq, and Yemen are really about Iranian expansionism and the age-old clash between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Hezbollah is indeed a Shiite organization, and the majority of Iraqis are also members of the sect. Assad’s regime is closely associated with the Alawites, an offshoot of Shiism, and the Houthis in Yemen follow a variety of the sect as well.

However, the wars in the Middle East are about secular power, not divine authority — although sectarian division is a useful recruiting device. As for “Iranian aggression,” it was the Sunni-dominated regime of Saddam Hussein, bankrolled by Saudi Arabia and supported by the United States, that started the modern round of Sunni-Shiite bloodletting when Iraq invaded Iran in 1981.

If the Israeli Army attacks southern Lebanon, Hezbollah will be forced to bring some of its troops home from Syria, thus weakening the Syrian Army at a time when it’s already hard pressed by newly united rebel forces. In short, it would be a two-front war that would tie down Hezbollah, smash up southern Lebanon, and lead to the possible collapse of the Assad regime.

As Karl von Clausewitz once noted, however, war is the realm of uncertainty. All that one can really determine is who fires the first shot.

That the Israelis can pulverize scores of villages in southern Lebanon and kill lots of Shiites, there is no question. They’ve done it before. But a ground invasion may be very expensive, and the idea that they could “defeat” Hezbollah is a pipe dream. Shiites make up 40 percent of Lebanon’s sectarian mélange and dominate the country’s south. Hezbollah has support among other communities as well, in part because it successfully resisted the 1982-2000 Israeli occupation and bloodied Tel Aviv in the 2006 invasion.

An Israeli attack on Hezbollah, however, would almost certainly re-ignite Lebanon’s civil war, while bolstering the power of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. The Turks might think that al-Qaeda is no threat to them, but recent history should give them pause.

Creating something like the mujahedeen in Afghanistan and the anti-Gaddafi forces in Libya is not terribly difficult. Controlling them is altogether another matter.

“It Always Seems to Blow Back”

“Every power in the Middle East has tried to harness the power of the Islamists to their own end,” says Joshua Landis, director of Middle Eastern Studies at Oklahoma University. But “it always seems to blow back.”

The Afghan mujahedeen created the Taliban and al-Qaeda, the U.S. invasion of Iraq spawned the Islamic State, and Libya has collapsed into a safe haven for radical Islamist groups of all stripes. Erdogan may think the Justice and Development Party’s Islamic credentials will shield Turkey from a Syrian ricochet, but many of these groups consider Erdogan an apostate for playing democratic politics in secular institutions.

Indeed, up to 5,000 Turkish young people have volunteered to fight in Syria and Iraq. Eventually they will take the skills and ideology they learned on the battlefield back to Turkey, and Erdogan may come to regret his fixation with overthrowing Assad.

While it hard to imagine a Middle East more chaotic than it is today, if the Army of Conquest succeeds in overthrowing the Assad government, and Israel attacks Lebanon, “chaos” will be an understatement.

Conn Hallinan is a Foreign Policy In Focus columnist. Hallinan is also a columnist for the Berkeley Daily Planet, and an occasional free lance medical policy writer. He is a recipient of a Project Censored “Real News Award.” He formally ran the journalism program at the University of California at Santa Cruz, where he was also a college provost. He can be reached at:


An Interview with Lia Tarachansky – The Big Lie at the Heart of the Myth of the Creation of Israel

via The Big Lie at the Heart of the Myth of the Creation of Israel » CounterPunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names.



Lia Tarachansky’s heart-wrenching documentary, On the Side of the Road, reveals the Big Lie at the heart of the myth of the creation of Israel.

Tarachansky had to break through a lot of personal and social barriers to produce this often infuriating film about the Nakba, the “catastrophe” of 1948, when approximately 750,000 Palestinians (a number that has grown to 1.5 million refugees living in camps over the ensuing 67 years) were expelled from their homes and forced into squalid camps, where they are denied basic human rights.

Tarachansky’s toughest challenge was overcoming her own deeply ingrained assumptions. Born in Kiev in 1984, her youth, as she described it in a previous interview, was “a shifting, uncertain reality. While I was only learning to read, my parents split, the Chernobyl nuclear reactor blew up, and the Soviet Union collapsed. I was too young to understand what was happening when we evacuated the city and prepared for what would turn into years of economic uncertainty.”

A Zionist, her mother took Lia and her sister to Israel where, she told her children, “banana-eating monkeys sit in palm trees,” and “everyone is Jewish.”

Those were among the first myths to fizzle out. A computer engineer, Tarachansky’s mother found work changing diapers in a retirement home, while Lia went from “being the only Jew in my Soviet kindergarten to being the only Russian in my Israeli elementary school.”

“We went from the façade of ‘equality for all comrades’,” Tarachansky said, “to the façade of ‘equality for all Jews’.” As she discovered, “Israel is a striated society, even among Jews, in terms of access to economic justice and rights.”

As she grew into adolescence in the settlement of Ariel in the occupied West Bank, Tarachansky also heard rumors of non-Jews inhabiting the land. As strange as it may seem, the settlers had no contact with the Palestinians living all around them. The Arab inhabitants of Israel were stereotyped as “terrorists” intent on slaughtering Jewish settlers, to be avoided at all costs.

Unfortunately, these stereotypes resonate as indisputable truth in America, which officially backs Israel’s war of attrition against the Palestinian peoples. Witness Illinois’s recent, unanimously passed law making it illegal to invest state pension funds in organizations that support the Boycott Divest Sanction (BDS) movement.

As in America, racial, cultural, class and religious prejudices dictate unjust social norms in Israel and determine its government’s repressive policies. The result is that Jewish Israelis celebrate and legalize their ethnic superiority and moral right to discriminate against Palestinians.

Crashing the Party

Having been a Zionist settler, Lia Tarachansky empathizes with Israeli Jews. Instead of condemning them, she examines and tries to understand her personal transformation, and that of other Israelis who are seeking to escape from embedded but false assumptions. Tarachansky’s film is about people who are struggling to deal honestly with the Nakba. This capacity for critical thought and self-examination is what enables Tarachansky to show so convincingly how and why the Zionists have locked themselves in a prison of their own making.

As she explains, the film is shot from the point of view of “return.” Perhaps even a return to sanity.

The documentary begins on balmy May 15th, Independence Day, with fireworks exploding in the night sky and Eitan Bronstein from Zochrot (an NGO dedicated to exposing the truth and raising awareness about the Nakba) posting signs and handing out fliers that show an Arab holding a key to his former home.

Recoiling in horror at what she views as a mortal threat, an Israeli woman proudly proclaims, “I’m a racist.”

She says to Bronstein, “It’s a pity people like you are even alive.”

What Bronstein is doing isn’t popular. And it’s not just public opinion he is challenging. At the time the documentary begins, the Israeli government is enacting a law to repress the true history of the Nakba, and in the process, wash away Israel’s sins. The proposed law will make it illegal to mourn ‘the catastrophe” on Independence Day. It will turn what Bronstein is doing into a crime. It’s an anti-democratic, racist, and discriminatory law, but, as we learn, Dov Yermiyah was the only Jewish member of Knesset to speak against the law, which passed by a vote of 37-25. The full 48 members of the opposition at the time did not vote against this bill, most simply abstained.

Going against society is never easy, even when the society embraces immoral positions. But heroic individuals do exist, and Tarachansky’s documentary also features Tikva Honig-Parnass. Raised in a Jewish community in Palestine, Honig-Parnass fought in the 1948 war and later served as the secretary of the Unified Workers Party in the Knesset (1951-1954). Over 30 years ago she broke with Zionism and joined the Socialist organization known as Matzpen. Since then she has played an active role in the movement against the second phase of the occupation that began in 1967, as well as in the struggle for Palestinian national rights.

Tarachansky films Honig-Parnass while she visits a village she helped destroy, and records her while she speaks about her personal struggle to overcome denial. Tikva explains why she and her comrades were prepared to believe the lies they were told by their leaders in 1948. As the deputy mayor of Kedumim settlement, Shoshana Shilo, says later in the film, they were told it was an “empty land” consisting only of “Arabs and malaria.”

The cause was said to be just, but Jews were a substantial minority in Palestine prior to 1948, with most arriving in 1948 only after the purge. Moreover, the Anglo-Americans who ruled the United Nations partitioned Palestine without consulting most Palestinians, while those who were consulted, rejected the plan. Although the UN plan was not implemented, as Gary Leech explains, “the Jewish population in Palestine unilaterally announced the creation of the state of Israel on May 14, 1948.”i

“By the end of 1949,” Leech said, “Israel had destroyed more than 400 Palestinian villages, massacred thousands of civilians and forcibly displaced almost a million Palestinians, who ended up in refugee camps in neighboring Arab countries. In other words, with the Jewish people having just endured the horrors of the Holocaust, the Zionists were now carrying out, according to Pappe, the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people.”

“We didn’t care where they went,” a veteran who fought with the Palmach tells Tarachansky. ‘Ruhu el Gaza, Go to Gaza,’ we told them, as we expelled them.” Referring to the massacre at Burayr, a village in the south of the country, he says remorsefully, “We killed 70 people there.”

Facing the Facts

Lia Tarachansky began her own research into the Nakba after her mother remarried and the family moved to Ottawa, Canada. Lia was 16 at the time. In Canada, half a world away from settlements and Israel’s closed society, her personal transformation began. She met anti-Zionist Jewish students, read many books, including Ilan Pappe’s The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine and, as she told Sarah Levy in a previous interview, met a Palestinian for the first time.ii

“The strongest thing for me was having a conversation with a Palestinian for the first time, when I was at school in Canada. I was standing somewhere in the university and this guy comes up to me and asks for directions. And we start talking and he says, “You have a strong accent, where are you from?” and I say, “Oh, I’m Israeli,” and he says amiably, “Oh yeah? I’m a Palestinian!”

“So he asks for directions and then he goes on his way. And as he walks away I realize that I’m holding my purse just a little bit tighter, that my whole body is kind of uptight, and it takes me a couple minutes to calm down from being terrified for my life. But then out of that brief interaction I realized: he knows I’m an Israeli, he told me he’s a Palestinian, and he didn’t try to kill me. That was revolutionary for me because, I’d been told my whole life that Palestinians are just brainless, emotional, primitive murdering anti-Semites who just want to kill Jews all the time. And here was this totally polite sensible nice guy and yet he was a Palestinian.

“I know it sounds horrible, but for me, that was something that didn’t fit with anything I had known before. So it actually began a very violent process of tackling a lot of the mythology that I thought was true about the conflict.”

While a student at the University of Guelph, Tarachansky read Stanley Cohen’s monumental book, States of Denial: Knowing about Atrocities and Suffering. As her awareness grew, she shifted her career path from medicine to journalism and eventually got a job with The Real News Network. She eagerly became its correspondent in Israel and Palestine, where her research became a part of her job. She went to archives, looked at maps, and located villages that had been abandoned and destroyed during the Nakba. She also located veterans of the 1948 expulsion, one of whom, Amnon Noiman, she interviewed over a period of four years for the documentary.

Noiman is the central character in the documentary. A droll octogenarian, he wonders if his marriage of 56 years will last. He’s smart and funny, but tormented. He grapples with his guilt as he and Tarachansky visit places where he and the Palmach (the strike force of the Hagana) massacred people and expelled them from their villages, later burning them to the ground.

“It’s been eating me up,” he says. “They ran away and we shot them… I was 19. I was a fool. That’s why I’m in such despair. Because there will always be new 19 year olds.”

When Arabs would return to prune vines their families had tended for centuries, the Zionist militias would wait in ambush and shoot them.

“Most people left on their own,” Eitan Bronstein explains, “because after a few massacres and after you shoot a few people in the head…you don’t need many for people to flee.”

“The main project since Forty-Eight,” he adds, “is to shut the door, to prevent their return. The Nakba is this central point of preventing return. And since then, we’ve prevented and denied their right of return.”

“Without understanding 1948 you simply don’t understand where you live, and we Israelis simply have no idea what the conflict we live in is all about.”

Palestinians were driven from land they’d lived on for thousands of years, so Jews could prosper. And while the film is not about Palestinians as much as it is about the self-delusions that pervert the collective Israeli consciousness, it does include the perspective of Khalil Abu Hamdeh, whose grandparents were expelled in 1948 and whose families have been living in the West Bank under the yoke of Israeli occupation ever since.

Tarachansky films Hamdeh after he gets a permit to leave the Asqar Refugee Camp where he lives, near the northern West Bank city of Nablus. The camp looks like bombed-out Belfast, with scrawny kids playing in rubble. Together they visit Qaqun, the village where his grandmother fled. Qaqun is now a national park. His grandfather’s village, near Jaffa, was razed to the ground.

“How can it be,” Tarachansky asks of one of the veterans in her film, “that three years after the Holocaust the Jewish people kill, massacre, steal, rape, and pillage what was left?”

Honig-Parnass responds: “It’s a mistake to think that a personal experience, such as losing family in the Holocaust, is motivation for a more humanitarian worldview. Quite the opposite, it’s not the personal experience but the ideology that you use to interpret it.”

The documentary ends a year after it began, with Eitan Bronstein crashing another happy Israeli Independence Day celebration. The police are irritated because he intends to distribute fliers with names of villages that were destroyed in the Nabka. The cops say his fliers are inciting materials and a disturbance to the peace.

A bystander IDF soldier watching the ruckus turns to Tarachansky’s camera and says “You’re lucky the cops are here. If we had the chance, we’d shoot you one by one.”

The cops smile.


I recently had the honor of interviewing Lia Tarachansky. She and I are not strangers. Lia contributed a poem to an anthology I edited, With Our Eyes Wide Open: Poems of the New American Century.iii Her poetry, like her film, deals largely with the contradictions of Israeli society. Before we begin the interview, I’d like to present a prose-poem she wrote about the on-going Nakba:


The Wife of the Accused

The wife of the accused is 23. She is eight months pregnant. She still has pimples on her face. She is very pale. She stands her elbow at a right angle against her back. Like an old, old woman. The day her husband went missing she left her house.

She knows too well the ways of the army. She doesn’t want to die when they come to demolish the home. They didn’t come with charges, or a warrant. They came with sledgehammers and broke everything. She stayed at her parents’ place. The next night they came with dogs. And sledgehammers. And broke the broken rubble. The next night they came with an army jeep to her parents’ place and took her. They drove to her home and made her watch. They blew up her house, and made them watch. The wife of the accused and her unborn baby.

DV – Hi Lia. Many thanks for answering some questions about this difficult subject. In a recent interview you said that the latest attack on Gaza brought a lot of the fascists out of the closet. How is fascism manifesting itself in Israel? Is the Nakba law a manifestation of Israeli fascism and racism?

LT – Israeli fascism is complex and manifests itself in many different ways. By the early 20th century understanding of fascism, meaning a social movement that forces all to align to one communal line of thinking, and bans all others Israel is not a fascist state because the State exerts little pressure on Israeli Jews to conform. However, the pressure comes from the society itself. In essence, it is easy to indoctrinate a people that wants to be indoctrinated. Since everyone is a part of the army, or at least knows and loves someone in the army, the army’s actions are considered outside of what is legitimate to criticize, and along with it, the bigger policies of the Israeli security echelon. There are many elements to it, from Israeli media to politicians, to school education. They all play a part in Israelis’ collective ignorance of the reality they impose on the Palestinians and the justifications for that reality. They also play a major part in reinforcing Israelis’ collective denial, as we talked in our interview. In this kind of environment it is easy for fascistic movements to arise, as we’ve seen they’ve come and gone throughout Israel’s history and are now getting stronger. During the Gaza attack this summer we saw people attacking anyone who speaks Arabic or looks Arabic on the streets of Jerusalem, mobs running through major streets in both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv screaming “death to Arabs” and “Turn Gaza into a Cemetery” as you can see in my reports for The Real News Network. These people believe Israel is a Jewish state and should be Jewish-only, and that anyone who thinks differently must be silenced, if necessary, by force. I do not put the blame for their behavior at the feet of a few radicals, but squarely at the feet of the Prime Minister himself, who incites and allows politicians within his government to incite the masses in such a way. Further, I think since the very essence of Zionism has never been defined – what does it mean a Jewish state? A Jewish-religious state? A Jewish-majority state? A Jewish-only state? These ambiguities allow for all kinds of interpretations, including fascistic ones.

DV – What exactly is the Nakba law?

LT – The Nakba Law was proposed in 2009 and a diluted version of it passed in 2011. Essentially it forbids any body that receives any part of its budget from the government (such as funds, community centers, or schools) to commemorate the Nakba on the Israeli day of Independence. If they do, their budgets get slashed by a certain amount. The main impact of the law wasn’t so much the punishment that it legislated but the cooling effect that it had on the Palestinian (20% of the population) and other citizens of Israel from commemorating the tragedy that began in 1948 when two-thirds of the Palestinians who lived on this land became refugees. It basically criminalized history and the commemoration of the survivors’ pain and sent a clear message that only one version of history is legitimate, the version of the victor.

DV – What is life like in the various Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, as opposed to life in a Palestinian refugee camp?

LT – Living in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank is similar to any North American suburb. The town is even structured like American suburbs and usually serves a commuter town for people who work in the center of the country and want a bigger back yard than they would be able to afford living near their workplace. There are few jobs in the settlements themselves, except for the nine industrial parks (where the majority of jobs are staffed by West Bank Palestinians anyway). In a way, because these are gated communities surrounded by fences and walls, and checkpoints, and the military, they create a bubble in which generations are born and grow up in blissful ignorance of their surroundings. Until I left the settlement I didn’t even know the names of the Palestinian villages directly around Ariel, and have of course never met anyone who lived there. I was brought up to believe that we were on the frontier of defending the land of Israel from its unnatural, enemy inhabitants, and saw all those Palestinian communities as something dangerous and alien. I wouldn’t pretend to know what life in a refugee camp is like as I come from the privileged, Jewish population but from my many visits and friends in Palestinian refugee camps, I can tell you life there is very hard. In essence, whatever territory UNRWA was given for these camps when these people first became refugees, whether in 1948 or 1967 is the same territory they still have. Balata Refugee Camp in Nablus, in the Northern West Bank for example is one square kilometer. On this territory now three generations live, in intensely dense conditions, where streets look more like tiny alleyways. These communities have also limited access to electricity and are stuck in a legal limbo regarding their rights and are therefore left in a precarious situation. This is why it is no surprise that much of the armed resistance comes from these camps. When people are left with nothing to lose, they are willing to do the unimaginable.

DV – How do Palestinians earn a living in Israel?

LT – About a quarter of a million Palestinians work inside Israel. Many get permits from the Israeli administrative body in charge of the West Bank, known as COGAT. This body works with Israel’s various security agencies in deciding whom to give permits and whom to deny. Primary on the list of people denied are anyone whose home was demolished or whose relatives have been killed by Israeli forces as they are at “a higher risk to seek revenge”, according to COGAT’s regulations. Most, therefore, sneak into Israel to work in precarious work without a permit. This attests to two things, the first is that the so-called Security Wall, or Segregation Wall has not helped in preventing suicide attacks, as the Israeli government claims, because if anyone can just sneak in, so can terrorists. This goes to prove that the Wall is indeed used to cement Israel’s land grab, as attested to its route going deep into the West Bank in most places, and not running along the 1967 “Green Line”. The second thing that this proves is that the vast majority of Palestinians simply want to live in dignity, to earn money and raise their children, something that should give the Israeli people hope.

Most Palestinians who work in Israel either work in construction or in the lowest positions in the service industry, such as dishwashing or cleaning. They leave the West Bank for weeks at a time, sleeping either at their workplace (if they work construction) or three/four people to a bed in rented apartments and returning to their families every few weekends to give them the money they make. I have to add here that according to the Oslo Agreements, Israel collects these workers’ taxes and is supposed to then transfer these taxes to the PA to be returned to the workers, but this has never happened, so in essence these workers work pay taxes to Israel, yet are not citizens of Israel, and do not benefit from the government’s use of their taxes, which in many cases go to support the Occupation infrastructure.

DV – Are there economic reasons for the oppression of the Palestinians? Do they serve as a source of cheap labor for Israelis?

LT – Yes, but that’s not the main reason: as we’ve seen since the Second Intifadah, their use as a cheap labor source can be easily replaced with migrant workers from Asia and Eastern Europe. The economic benefit is more complex than that. First of all, the Palestinians are a captive market for many Israeli goods, both in the West Bank and in Gaza. Secondly, Israel’s number one industry is the arms industry, which benefits immensely from having a population on which it can routinely test its inventions, be they crowd-dispersal weapons, drones, or other weapons, and especially technologies developed for Homeland Security, which Israel exports around the world. These are Hi-Tech surveillance and intelligence gathering tools with which the various Israeli intelligence agencies monitor the Palestinian population and which are then sold around the world.

These are just two ways Israel benefits from the Occupation. If you want to know more about the economic element of it, I recommend the work of Shir Hever, who wrote The Political Economy of Israel’s Occupation, the database Who Profits, the research centre Al Shabaka, or the work of Dr. Neve Gordon, whose website has a ton of great resources.

DV – Do you feel the BDS movement will help force Israel to moderate its oppressive policies toward Palestinians?

LT – I don’t know, but I think the tactics used so far haven’t helped in bringing the powerful to the table to negotiate in good faith. Perhaps this kind of pressure will work as it did in Apartheid South Africa, but I hope that our “day after” will be far better than theirs.

DV – Short of Israel giving back everything it’s stolen from the Palestinians, what is the solution to this problem?

LT – Well, I wouldn’t simplify this conflict like that, but there are many solutions on the table. As I’m sure you know there is the well-known Two State Solution, but also the One State Solution, and more recently, variations of the Swiss Solution, meaning a multi-national federation or confederacy. I shy away from the kind of thinking that believes that every problem has a solution, or that everything that breaks can be made whole again. I think the work that we have to do to repair the massive damage that was done is a multi-generational and extremely complex work, but of course the first step is equality, from the river to the sea.

DV – Will Palestinians ever be allowed to return to their homes?

LT – I don’t know how to read the future, but I think that any solution that doesn’t include the Palestinian refugees will be refused by a Palestinian leadership that wishes to survive to the handshake at the end of the agreement.

DV – There is a huge information war going on to rationalize international support for Israel. How does Israel manage to successfully define itself as a victim when it is openly racist and the aggressor?

LT – I think that Israel is a different context than the colonial regimes in Africa, in the sense that it was created because of oppression. If it was not for European anti-Semitism, Israel would not exist. It was therefore created as a result of centuries of crimes against the Jewish people, and that has created a sense of victimhood in our collective psyche that’s going to take longer than a few decades to repair. That, however, is separate from Israel’s policies. The Israeli government plays on that psyche, on that consciousness both at home and abroad to recruit the Israeli people and to enlist the support of its friends abroad. I think that more importantly than that, however, is that Israel serves as a convenient laboratory for those said friends, and its collapse (largely due to the racist and aggressive policies you’ve alluded to) will be the end of a long experiment both in colonialism but also in the idea that you can have a state for one group, at the expense of others. That you can have an “Ethnocracy”, a term defined by Oren Yiftachel as the kind of state Israel is, and the kind of state many Europeans wish their countries were. Right now we’re seeing this idea battle itself out in the laboratory that is Israel, and there are many victims of it, the Palestinians of course but also the African refugees, the migrant workers, and I would argue the Israeli Jewish people themselves as they are increasingly incited against living in a multicultural and therefore stronger society that is based on the values of democracy and equality and not perpetual war.

DV – People who advocate BDS are often slandered as anti-Semitic. Is it an unstated but intentional Israeli policy to publicly slander people as anti-Semitic if they criticize Israel?

LT – I don’t know what the Israel government does intentionally or unintentionally but it is a perversion of real anti-Semitism to claim that criticism of the state of Israel is anti-Semitic. I think that it blinds us from deciphering what real anti-Semitism is (and I have seen that it is still alive and well) and is in my opinion this kind of perversion is very dangerous.

DV – In an attempt to limit the free speech of US citizens, representatives in Illinois voted unanimously to prevent state pension funds from participating in BDS. The US Congress sends $3 billion of US tax dollars to Israel every year, over the objections of an increasing number of its citizens. How does Israel manage to retain the unconditional support of US and Canadian politicians?

LT – I think you should ask American and Canadian journalists that question.

DV – You have toured the US, Canada, Europe and Israel with your film. How has it been received? How and why are reactions different in different regions? Are non-Israelis aware of the Nakba? Do they care?

LT – I have been very lucky to have screened my film in Europe, Canada, and the US, as well as in Israel/Palestine and I would have to say that the reception has been incredible. Most people find the film thought-provoking, which is the highest honor a filmmaker can hope for from her audience. Many people of course find it very hard to watch, as it reflects a certain reality in Israel that many wish either wasn’t there or wasn’t seen. I have been doing my best to continue my communication with the folks who found the film particularly hard, but it’s a full-time job to be in so many communications at once. I invite people to go visit and see the reality for themself, and hope that my film will help them, in as much as it can, understand what they see when they get there.

DV – When will your audience be able to buy DVD’s of your documentary film, “On The Side of the Road”?

LT – This summer. I invite your readers to check for the exact release date of the DVD.

DV – Are you working on a new project? Can we look forward to another documentary from you?

LT – I have recently completed another documentary with Canadian journalist Jesse Freeston. You are welcome to read more about it on our site It is a film entitled ETHNOCRACY IN THE PROMISED LAND: ISRAEL’S AFRICAN REFUGEES, and as the title says it profiles the kind of state Israel is, and why it refuses to give asylum even to those who have never been in conflict with it, and who seek refuge from war and hunger. The film was a commission of TeleSUR TV and will be screened in Spanish and English this summer.

DV – Thank you very much.

LT – You are very welcome.

Douglas Valentine is the author of The Strength of the Wolf: The Secret History of America’s War on Drugs, and The Strength of the Pack: The Personalities, Politics, and Espionage Intrigues that Shaped the DEA.


Forbidden Love: Madonna Posts Controversial Photo

via Forbidden Love: Madonna Posts Controversial Photo.

MON MAY 18, 2015

by librarisingnsf

attribution: Twitter/Instagram


Madonna is fond of controversy, and she knows how to stir it up pretty well. Now, the “material girl” has posted a photo of a (presumably) gay Jewish man and a gay Muslim man about to kiss on Instagram.

From The New Civil Rights Movement:

Jewish news agency JTA describes the image as showing “a Jewish man with side curls and wearing a large white knitted kippah of the Breslover Hasidic movement and an Arab man wearing a traditional Arab keffiyeh.”

Regardless, the Material Girl knows how to spark controversy, discussion, and debate, and what a great way to do it.

For millennia the Middle East has been a war zone of intellectual, spiritual, and physical battles between Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, and their adherents, followers, and advocates.

For millennia, and increasingly, homosexuality has been part of this debate.

Commenters on the image took all sides, but seemed overwhelmingly positive.

The responses have been mixed, but mostly positive. I think it’s wonderful and sweet myself.

And, check out this video.



Congress’ destructive anti-Palestine agenda: The international outrage that nobody is talking about –

via Congress’ destructive anti-Palestine agenda: The international outrage that nobody is talking about –

THURSDAY, MAY 14, 2015

Members of Congress want to ignore international law and recognize illegal Israeli settlements. Bad, bad idea…


Congress' destructive anti-Palestine agenda: The international outrage that nobody is talking about

Benjamin Netanyahu (Credit: Reuters/Abir Sultan)

It used to be that Israel was the only global player who refused to admit that its settlements in Palestine were illegal under international law. Now there is a danger that Congress could be added to the list. Members of both the House and Senate have recently introduced at least six different pieces of legislation attempting to legitimize these Palestinian land grabs by shielding them from increasing international trade pressure. In doing so, Congress is essentially requiring the U.S. to punish trade partners for adhering to international laws and for the first time in its history, endorse and defend the settlements by treating them as a part of Israel.

The train wreck began when Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced the AIPAC-backed United States-Israel Trade Enhancement Act in March. The following month, pro-settlement amendments were added to the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill and the House versions of each bill. In addition, the Trade Facilitation and Trade Reinforcement Act was also introduced with pro-settlement language in both chambers. Congress will be considering these bills in the coming weeks.

The Obama Administration has not commented on these bills and amendments so far, but Senator Portman’s and others’ claims that they will stand against “politically motivated boycotts of Israel” are misleading. It is already against U.S. law to boycott Israel, but settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights are not legally a part of Israel. The European Union’s exclusion clause, one of the main drivers behind these Congressional efforts, limits sanctions to Israeli entities with links to the settlements – not Israeli businesses as a whole. But members who introduced these amendments, such as Rep. Roskam (IL), essentially conflate the two, not even mentioning the word “settlements” in the language, and instead using the phrase “Israel or in Israeli-controlled territories.”

It would behoove Congress to seriously consider the ramifications of their actions. These bills are not about countering the diverse Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement or supporting Israel. Rather, they are trying to make it U.S. policy to treat Israel and the territories they occupy as one and the same and penalize trade partners that don’t back that problematic stance. This sets up an extremely dangerous impediment to the peace process, which current and previous administrations have heavily invested in. In fact, it “actually encourages illegal settlement building”, according to Rabbi Joseph Berman, Federal Policy Organizer at Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). JVP and several other Jewish American organizations, including some who oppose BDS, have all issued statements urging Congress to reject these alarming pieces of pro-settlement legislation.

Now is the time for Americans who support peace to take a stand on this critical issue and make their voices heard on Capitol Hill. If it is not addressed now, not only do we put the peace process and lives of Palestinians under occupation in further jeopardy, but we also open the door to seeing similar legislation reappear, perhaps in more extreme forms, in the future. Our representatives’ offices should be flooded with calls, emails, and visits demanding statements of opposition before these bills reach the House or Senate floors. And when they are brought to the floor, we should have their guarantee that they will do everything in their power to prevent our country from obstructing the path to peace.

Wardah Khalid is a Scoville Fellow in Middle East policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation Education Fund. Follow her on Twitter @YAmericanMuslim.

Israeli-trained police invade Baltimore in crackdown on Black Lives Matter | The Electronic Intifada

via Israeli-trained police invade Baltimore in crackdown on Black Lives Matter | The Electronic Intifada.


Submitted by Rania Khalek on Thu, 05/07/2015

Paramilitary police forces face off against peaceful protesters outside Baltimore City Hall after 10 pm curfew on Friday, 1 May. (Bryan MacCormack/Left in Focus)



For the second time in less than a year, an American city was transformed into a hypermilitarized police state to subdue growing resistance to anti-Black police violence.

Eight months ago, paramilitary forces barreled down the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, following the gruesome police killing of unarmed Black teenager Michael Brown.

Last week, martial law was imposed on the people of Baltimore, Maryland, in yet another crackdown aimed at crushing the Black Lives Matter uprising, galvanized this time by the police murder of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old Black man whose spinal cord was severed while in police custody.

It was an occupation in the truest sense of the term. However, for Baltimore’s poor Black neighborhoods, it was a hypermilitarized version of the lower intensity occupation they are subjected to on a regular basis.

Protests demanding justice for Gray had been largely peaceful, until heavy-handed police tactics against Baltimore high school students on 27 April incited a riot.

Some young people responded by throwing bottles and rocks at police, prompting comparisons to Palestine, where children often toss stones at Israeli occupation forces as a means of resistance and self-defense.

Windows of police cruisers were smashed, stores were looted and a CVS store was set ablaze, throwing white America into a panicked frenzy that seemed to prioritize broken windows over broken spines, as one activist put it.

Martial law

Within hours of the riots, Baltimore city officials declared a state of emergency and instituted a 10pm curfew.

Practically overnight, Baltimore morphed into a heavily militarized police state with machine-like efficiency, demonstrating America’s frightening capacity to successfully implement martial law in a major US city in a matter of hours.

By Tuesday, 3,000 National Guard troops were deployed to Baltimore.

An armored police vehicle passes by the burned down a CVS store on the intersection of North and Pennsylvania avenues in Baltimore on 1 May.  (Bryan MacCormack/Left in Focus)


With assault rifles in hand, bored US soldiers in official military combat attire roamed the streets of downtown Baltimore, patrolling the National Aquarium, as well as the outlets of Forever 21, Cheesecake Factory and Barnes & Noble that dot the trendy and polished Inner Harbor.

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The soldiers were flanked by police from a collection of law enforcement agencies from Maryland and across state lines, all working in concert with Baltimore police to crush the nascent uprising that erupted in the city’s long neglected poor Black neighborhoods. For these communities, martial law presented nothing more than an added layer to the ferocious police violence and intolerable economic deprivation that inform their daily lives.

Breaking curfew

On Friday, 1 May, around 80 protesters held their ground in the courtyard in front of City Hall. They were in high spirits and determined to break the 10pm curfew following news that six Baltimore police officers were charged in the killing of Freddie Gray.

Protesters huddle in the courtyard outside Baltimore City Hall on 1 May 2015, preparing to break the 10 pm curfew. (Rania Khalek / The Electronic Intifada)


The courtyard had become an unofficial media headquarters since the state of emergency began, saturated with TV news vans, cable news tents and lighting crews. The area also served as a command center for the National Guard and law enforcement.

As the curfew went into effect, a line of around a hundred riot police filed into the quad opposite the protesters, who had thinned out from a couple hundred to a few dozen. The mood was tense, but calm.

Riot police face off against protesters trying to break the curfew outiside Baltimore City Hall on 1 May. (Bryan MacCormack/Left in Focus)


Minutes later, hidden units of riot police thundered into the crowd, charging at frightened protesters who soon learned there was nowhere to run. Protesters were woefully outnumbered and surrounded, with all possible escape routes cut off by either riot squads, officers on horseback, armored vehicles with rooftop snipers or National Guard troops, reinforced by a police helicopter circling overhead.

Police officers dressed like storm troopers attacked one protester after the next completely unprovoked. I watched as police all around me tackled civilians, slamming them into the ground face first, piling on top of them and blindly swinging their batons. It was a police riot.

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Meanwhile, police closed in on the media, jostling members of the press and repeatedly threatening them to get back.

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Mass arrests

Among those arrested that night was 32-year-old Chicago-based activist Danielle Villarreal, who was knocked to the ground by officers while quietly looking to see which of her comrades had been grabbed.

Her friend, Jackie Spreadbury, 26, instinctively reached for Villareal’s arm to protect her from police and was instantly thrown against a van and tossed to the ground, her cheek pressed up against the curb.

“They hit me with their batons on the back of the calf below the knee as I was already down on the ground,” Spreadbury told me, recollecting her arrest. “I didn’t realize at the time that I was getting hit. I was just looking at Danielle to see if she was okay.”

“A bunch of cops were yelling different things at me. And then they started yelling at me for not listening to all the different things they were demanding,” Spreadbury recalled.

“I’ve been to lots of demonstrations over the years and I’ve never seen this sort of pre-emptive oppression — outside of NATO in Chicago — where they lunged at us and chased us down without warning, and just pre-emptively attacked people,” said Villarreal, referring to the virtual police state during the NATO summit in Chicago in 2012 that saw protesters corralled, abused and arrested.

“If you want to see who wants a riot, look at who’s dressed for it,” added Villarreal, noting that police were the ones wearing body armor and carrying billy clubs.

During their 22 hour stay in jail, the women met countless Baltimore residents who were swept up by police for breaking curfew while going about their daily lives. “They were put in a cell with us — women, mothers daughters — they got picked up because of this police state. There was a 51–year-old woman who was arrested on her way from work at 4:45am during curfew,” said Spreadbury.

At least 486 people have been arrested in Baltimore since 23 April, a fifth of whom were held for 48 hours without explanation and released without charge.

Others were given astronomically high bails.

Allen Bullock, 18, turned himself in at the behest of his parents after a photo of him smashing a police windshield with a traffic cone was plastered in news reports across the country. Bullock is currently being held on a half a million dollar bail that his family can’t possibly afford. In stark contrast, the officers who severed Freddie Gray’s spine received bails no greater than $350,000.

Palestine contingent lends support

Building on the deepening bond between the Palestinian and Black liberation struggles, Palestinian civil society organizations issued a declaration of support for those struggling against racial injustice in Baltimore.

“We send our condolences to the family of Freddie Gray and all those murdered in police custody,” says the statement. “We stand in solidarity with those whose homes have been foreclosed, with those who live under the constant watch of surveillance cameras and under the constant threat of being stopped, harassed, arrested and assaulted by a militarized police force in their own streets. Your struggle for justice, equality and freedom is our struggle.”

A contingent of Palestine solidarity activists affiliated with Students for Justice with Palestine (SJP) at American University and Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) at George Mason University turned those words into action.

Palestine solidarity activists from Washington, DC, supporting protesters in Baltimore. (Rania Khalek / The Electronic Intifada)


Wearing theirkuffiyehs— Palestinian checkered scarves — to remain easily visible to one another amid the likely chaos, the group shuffled back and forth between Washington, DC and Baltimore to lend their support as legal observers and medics.

“Oftentimes we struggle with wanting to participate because we don’t know if it’s our place and we don’t want to be co-opting,” said Ntebo Maya Mokuena, a 19-year-old member of SJP at AU. “But I think it’s important for people in DC to show solidarity in Baltimore because we’re so close.”

Mokuena gravitated toward Palestine solidarity work due to her father’s activism against apartheid in South Africa. “I saw the connections between his experiences in South Africa and what happens in Palestine. I thought it was really important to carry on the family legacy,” she told The Electronic Intifada.

“From Palestine to Baltimore, there are parallels with militarization of police and the tactics they use to take over space in other people’s land. They’re occupying people’s neighborhoods where they live. It’s like the second wave for Baltimore because it’s already economically occupied,” said Mokuena.

The group managed to avoid arrest during Friday night’s melee, though some told The Electronic Intifada that they were more frightened of police in Baltimore than Israeli forces at protests they had attended in Palestine.

“Even though I’ve been to protests in Palestine, I saw more physical abuse in Baltimore,” said Tareq Radi, a Palestinian American organizer and founding member of SAIA. Still, what he witnessed in Baltimore reminded him of Israeli crowd control in Palestine. “I went to the ‘day of rage’ protests in the Negev [Naqab] and I saw people getting slammed on the ground, hogtied, police grabbing their arms and legs and throwing them in the paddy wagon — the exact same imagery as Baltimore.”

“If Baltimore was a Middle Eastern country, we would be calling it a dictatorship,” Radi added.

Echoes of Israeli tactics in Baltimore

The similarities in suppression tactics employed by Baltimore and Israeli security forces are no coincidence.

Under the cover of counterterrorism training, nearly every major police agency in the United States has traveled to Israel for lessons in occupation enforcement, including many of the agencies active in Baltimore last week.

In 2002, Baltimore city police officers went to Israel on a junket organized by the neoconservative Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), where they studied Israeli occupation tactics used against Palestinians, including “crowd control, and coordination with the media,” according to a JINSA press release. “Participants resolved to begin the process of sharing ‘lessons learned’ in Israel with their law enforcement colleagues in the United States,” boasted JINSA.

Baltimore city police returned to Israel for more occupation training in a 2009 trip arranged by the American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange.

On a 2007 training session in Israel, Baltimore County police reportedly “received valued lessons from Israeli officials … about gathering human and electronic intelligence” that can “apply to investigations into organized crime and gangs.”

The Montgomery County Police Department, which sent dozens of police officers to assist in the Baltimore crackdown, has attended several training sessions in Israel, including one in 2010 and another in 2012, both hosted by Project Interchange.

New Jersey State Police, which donated around 150 of its officers to Baltimore’s police state, learned lessons in occupation enforcement on trips to Israel arranged by the Anti-Defamation League in 2011 and 2013, and JINSA in 2004.

Pennsylvania State Police, which contributed 300 state troopers to Baltimore, studied counterterrorism in Israel in2004.

While there is a wealth of scholarship on police militarization in the US, there has been little to no examination of the ways Israel’s security apparatus facilitates it. Instead, the issue is virtually ignored or flat out denied, despite the troubling implications of emulating an apartheid regime actively engaged in ethnic cleansing and war crimes.

Armed with cameras

There is something eerily consistent about occupation, whether in the ghettos of Palestine or the United States, including one of the most widely used means of resistance to it.

“A camera is the most trusted witness and the best protection tool,” Issa Amro, the founder and director of Youth Against Settlements, told me last year after his organization faced violent retaliation for recording Israeli soldiers pointing assault rifles at Palestinian teens in a video that wentviral.

Kevin Moore, who filmed the video of Freddie Gray’s brutal arrest, sees the camera in a similar light.

“The most powerful weapon that we have against the police right now is a camcorder or any type of record that you can get against them performing those police brutal events,”argued Moore after his video of Gray went viral. After speaking out about Gray’s killing, Moore complained that police were intimidating him. He was later arrested with two activists from Copwatch, the police accountability organization he is a member of and released two hours later without charge.

Ramsey Orta, the man who filmed the chokehold killing of Eric Garner by NYPD officers in Staten Island last year, met an even worse fate. He wasarrestedalong with his mother, brother and wife in what he contends is a campaign of vengeful harassment by the NYPD.

Meanwhile, not one of the officers who killed Garner on video will face charges*; Video evidence of deadly police violence rarely results in accountability.

Under such intolerable conditions, where even video evidence of their murders isn’t enough to hold their killers accountable, it is no wonder that the oppressed are fighting back, from Baltimore to Ferguson to Palestine.

*Strictly speaking, and in the interests of veracity, a number of officers are facing charges, as noted in a previous paragraph, brought by the Baltimore State Attorney, Marilyn Mosby.  While arguments rage regarding the propriety of her actions, the officers continue to face charges.


Jeb Bush’s terrifying W. strategy: How he’s sucking up to extremist billionaires—with the help of the worst president ever –

via Jeb Bush’s terrifying W. strategy: How he’s sucking up to extremist billionaires—with the help of the worst president ever –

FRIDAY, MAY 8, 2015

Jeb recently said he goes to his brother for Israel advice. That should scare you for a billion different reasons


Jeb Bush's terrifying W. strategy: How he's sucking up to extremist billionaires—with the help of the worst president ever

George W. Bush, Jeb Bush (Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing)

With these thirteen simple words GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush struck terror into the entire world yesterday. He said, “If you want to know who I listen to for advice, it’s him.”

To whom was he referring? As hard as it is to believe, he was talking about his brother, George W. Bush.

Now it’s true that the question referred to Israel and the Middle East specifically, but it doesn’t really matter. There isn’t any area of policy or interest in which it would be smart to make such an admission. After all, it was during George W. Bush’s tenure that we had the nation’s most catastrophic terrorist attack, that we made the most notorious foreign policy blunder in American history, and that we suffered the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression. Indeed, when you look at it that way, you have to give Jeb points for chutzpah, for daring to run at all. It’s only been 7 years since his brother left office with a 34 percent approval rating — which was actually quite an improvement from where he’d been mired for his final year in office. But for Jeb to actually suggest that he would listen to his brother or ask him for advice seems rather reckless.

It must be noted that Bush II’s ratings improved substantially once he retired from public view and has limited his appearances to self-portraits of himself in the tub, and Instagrams of his cute grandkids. But even after presenting himself for seven years as the nation’s slightly dotty old uncle who only shows up for Thanksgiving and Christmas, he is still loathed by half the people in the country. And one assumes that when they are reminded of his actual presidency, many of them will go back to the negative column. Those weren’t good times.

Now it’s true that the question referred to Israel and the Middle East specifically, but it doesn’t really matter. There isn’t any area of policy or interest in which it would be smart to make such an admission. After all, it was during George W. Bush’s tenure that we had the nation’s most catastrophic terrorist attack, that we made the most notorious foreign policy blunder in American history, and that we suffered the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression. Indeed, when you look at it that way, you have to give Jeb points for chutzpah, for daring to run at all. It’s only been 7 years since his brother left office with a 34 percent approval rating — which was actually quite an improvement from where he’d been mired for his final year in office. But for Jeb to actually suggest that he would listen to his brother or ask him for advice seems rather reckless.

It must be noted that Bush II’s ratings improved substantially once he retired from public view and has limited his appearances to self-portraits of himself in the tub, and Instagrams of his cute grandkids. But even after presenting himself for seven years as the nation’s slightly dotty old uncle who only shows up for Thanksgiving and Christmas, he is still loathed by half the people in the country. And one assumes that when they are reminded of his actual presidency, many of them will go back to the negative column. Those weren’t good times.

So why would Jeb say such a thing? Up until now he’s been scrupulous to avoid it saying things like, “I love my brother but I’m my own man.” He’s been working overtime to create a space for himself as the Bush who won’t make a hash of everything like his father and brother did. But he found himself in a bind: He foolishly named his father’s former consigliere James Baker as an advisor, and all hell broke loose among certain quarters of the GOP.

You see, James Baker, like President Poppy Bush, is from an earlier iteration of the Republican Party, a time before the evangelical Christians exerted such influence and the neocon faction had taken over the foreign policy establishment. Back in the day, the “realists”, especially those from Texas, were up front about who their best buds in the Middle East were, and let’s just say they weren’t the one who didn’t pump out large amounts of bubbling crude. Baker and Bush didn’t worry about all those evangelicals who are “rapturous” over Israel, and they didn’t see Israel as having interests that superseded their own, as many right-wingers do today.

Poppy, in fact, was often openly contemptuous of what he called “the Jewish lobby,” and Baker even more so: He once famously said, “Fuck the Jews, they don’t vote for us anyway.” (They didn’t and they don’t, but that’s where the evangelical Christians come in.) As Secretary of State, Baker made no bones about his challenges in dealing with Israel. In 1991, he appeared before Congress and said something that would be unimaginable coming from a Republican today:

“Nothing has made my job of trying to find Arab and Palestinian partners for Israel more difficult than being greeted by a new settlement every time I arrive. I don’t think that there is any bigger obstacle to peace than the settlement activity that continues not only unabated but at an enhanced pace.”

That’s what caused the right-wingers of both the social conservative and neo-conservative types to have a fit when Jeb mentioned that he still talked to those of Baker’s ilk. Those are fighting words in today’s GOP.

In fact, brother George wasn’t entirely trusted by many of the neocons in the beginning, either. During the 2000 campaign his outreach to the Jewish community was felt by many to be tepid, and his talk of a “humble foreign policy” sounded very much like he was going to follow in his father’s footsteps. Leading neocons like William Kristol backed his rival John McCain, whom they knew had never met a war he didn’t want to fight, and would likely be easily talked into “finishing the job” in Iraq. But as we know, “W” rose to the occasion beyond the neocons’ wildest dreams.

But Jeb’s problem really isn’t about placating Bill Kristol and the boys. After all, Jeb’s an O.G. neocon going all the way back to the ’90s. There’s no need to prove his pro-Israel bona fides to these guys. He was there when it counted. So what’s this really all about?

Well, it’s about winning the donor primary. According to the National Review, after James Baker recently made a speech mildly criticizing the Israeli Prime Minister, megabucks donor Sheldon Adelson had a fit:

Adelson sent word to Bush’s camp in Miami: Bush, he said, should tell Baker to cancel the speech. When Bush refused, a source describes Adelson as “rips***”; another says Adelson sent word that the move cost the Florida governor “a lot of money.”

The tension between Bush and Adelson doesn’t mean the candidate won’t have a chance to raise money from the rest of the pro-Israel crowd. Bush did not attend this year’s RJC [Republican Jewish Coalition] leadership meeting, last weekend in Las Vegas, but several of his allies, including Mel Sembler, a top Florida bundler, and Fred Zeidman, a Houston-based fundraiser, were there. His son Jeb Bush Jr. was also in attendance, and his brother George W. Bush delivered the keynote address. Aides to the former Florida governor handed out buttons with “Jeb” emblazoned in Hebrew.

Bush’s recent comment about listening to Junior’s advice on Israel was made to another group of potential big money donors, some of whom presumably had some of the same concerns as Adelson.

Considering how unpopular his brother remains with the public, it’s a testament to just how important winning the donor primary is that he would evoke his name in any gathering other than George or Barbara’s birthday parties. But that’s probably better than passing out the PNAC manifesto he signed back in 1998. After all, he still has to get enough votes from the American public to win the election. And it’s not going to be easy to get a majority in 2016 to vote for someone who agitated for a major catastrophe along the lines of Pearl Harbor in order that the US could carry out his megalomaniacal vision to run the world. It’s not a good look for any candidate but for a Bush it’s lethal. This is a very tough line for him to walk.


Heather Digby PartonHeather Digby Parton, also known as “Digby,” is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.


Assange Reveals That The West is Behind ISIS And Ukraine Crisis And Israel Behind Hamas – AnonHQ

via Assange Reveals That The West is Behind ISIS And Ukraine Crisis And Israel Behind Hamas AnonHQ.

NB: Posting of this piece does not constitute endorsement of the sentiments expressed in the final paragraph.  While I share a widespread suspicion of the true motivation behind the Swedish extradition request, the women involved in this affair have not withdrawn the allegations and Assange has not been cleared in a court of the allegations in a court of law.

March 27th, 2015 | by CoNN

Washington might hope that it has Assange cornered, but despite the man’s inability to physically move anywhere, it would seem that it is he who is doing all the cornering.

He explained to an Argentinian paper how US intervention in Ukraine had led to civil war, how the West had helped ISIS, and why Israel supported Hamas.

The United States has spent “A lot of time Trying to Bring Ukraine to the West,” the WikiLeaks Founder said in an Interview to Pagina / 12, Argentinian newspaper on Monday.

“If it cannot be with a NATO membership, at least it becomes independent from Moscow’s sphere of influence, to reduce Russian industrial-military complex and its naval bases in Crimea.”

Kiev’s first step closer to NATO was in December 2014, when President Petro Poroshenko signed a law cancelling the Ukraine ‘non-bloc status’ and promised to hold a national referendum on joining up with NATO in the next five to six years.

In January, Kiev began taking ever bolder strides away from Russia and announced that the Ukrainian army would take part in 11 international military drills in 2015…. to bolster “NATO” standards in troops.

America had long tried to ‘bring Ukraine closer to the West’ by spending “Billions of dollars on the creation of NGOs,” Said Assange, he added that “through These Institutions, the West Promised to end corruption in Ukraine.”

The intervention of Western countries in the Middle East had also led to  the creation of the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS), an Islamist group that is currently gaining a massive following across the wider Middle East and Africa, Assange said.

“The IS is A Direct result of the adventurism of the West,” Said Assange.

He says the “adventurism” of Western countries has already destroyed the Libyan and Syrian society and now is “destroying Iraq for oil and other geopolitical reasons.”

He said that most people are aware of the fact that arms are being funneled into Syria, and that the same agitators who provide these are also focused on reducing Iran’s influence on Iraq. But “what we don’t know is that in recent years in recent years Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey have increased their power and managed to gain certain independence form the US.”

As a result, Washington stopped being “the only geopolitical actor “pushing developments in the Middle East, claims Assange.

Assange claims that Israeli authorities had supported the Hamas group at its early stages in order to divide the Palestinian resistance.

“Our cables reveal that Israel supported Hamas in its infancy, that Hamas was used as an instrument to divide the Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO] and the Palestinian resistance,” Assange said.

In a nutshell, the West destroyed Syria, Iraq and Libya. For no good reason. This helped other American allies in the area grow in power, and BOOM instant ISIS, one part guns and two parts mercenaries hired by American allies. Israel helped Hamas, its “worst enemy” in order to divide Palestinians, and so that it can say “but mum, they launched ANOTHER rocket over to our side of the fence. It blew up my favorite patch of dirt. Can I go over there and slaughter all of them now?” and “I killed the women and children in the UN buildings. But MUM, it was self-defense! Stop judging meeeee!” as the world condemns their actions verbally and proceeds to do….. Absolutely nothing about it. Whatever happened to all that promised aid?

Julian Assange had spoken to the Argentinian paper from the Ecuadorian embassy which has been his home for more than three years now. In what amounts to house arrest, he is not allowed to leave, or risk repatriation to an intermediary country and then probably to the US. Staking out the building, in case the Australian should leave the premises, has already cost British taxpayers a hefty £10 million, according to Assange has not been charged with a crime, but is wanted for questioning in Sweden regarding allegations of sexual misconduct brought against him in 2010.

An arrest warrant was issued for Assange in 2010 in the of wake sexual assault allegations leveled against him by two Swedish women. He denied the allegations of sexual misconduct and rape and managed to avoid extradition to Sweden by seeking refuge in the embassy in 2012.

He repeatedly announced that he is ready to answer all questions concerning his sexual assault allegations within the embassy. However, Swedish prosecutors were reluctant to do so until March this year.

“If Assange gives his consent, the prosecutor will promptly submit a request for legal assistance to the British authorities to further continue the investigation,” the Swedish Prosecution Authority said in a statement.

Assange’s Swedish lawyer welcomed the Swedish prosecutors’ request to interview Assange in London, but added that the whole process of questioning could take time.

“We welcome [this] and see it also as a big victory … for Julian Assange that what we have demanded is finally going to happen,” Per Samuelson said.

Assange supporters fear that if he is deported to Sweden he will likely face espionage charges in America over his role in publishing sensitive, classified US government documents.

However, even if Sweden drops the case, he faces arrest by UK police for jumping the bail granted to him.

In June 2014, 56 international human rights and free media organizations signed a letter calling upon the US government to end all criminal investigations into Assange’s actions and to cease harassing the organization for publishing materials in the public interest. Even Women Against Rape (WAR, how militant) have come out in support of him.

Yet still the police want him arrested, and are willing to waste millions on this one man, ignoring the calls of the PEOPLE. More effort was spent on this one whistle-blower than all the recent pedophile investigations, with some even being dropped at the behest of powerful individuals, and that should tell you something about their priorities… Even REAL rapists (as opposed to men who have  consensual sex, as admitted by the women themselves) don’t get this much moolah spent on them.



What Israel fears with the successes of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement –

via What Israel fears with the successes of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement –


Amendments in the House and Senate target the BDS movement. It must be doing something right


What Israel fears with the successes of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement

Benjamin Netanyahu (Credit: AP/Sebastian Scheiner)

Most people understand how politicians use the amendment process to tack on seemingly unrelated, but politically potent, messages, to otherwise routine and innocuous legislation. Who would have imagined that an ordinary trade bill would be used to take a controversial, even radical position on the Israel-Palestine conflict, and in particular the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement? And yet that’s exactly what has happened.

Recently, the House and the Senate passed similar amendments to the bill authorizing negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with Europe that in one stroke of the pen attempt to make legal the Israeli settlements that are recognized as illegal by both the U.N. and international law.  Conversely, the amendments punish companies for adhering to international laws intended to protect against colonization.

The House amendment, co-sponsored by Peter Roskam of Illinois and Juan Vargas of California, inserts language declaring that the “principal negotiating objectives of the US” would now include discouraging both “actions by potential trading partners that directly or indirectly prejudice or otherwise discourage commercial activity solely between the United States and Israel,” and “politically motivated actions to boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel and to seek the elimination of politically motivated non-tariff barriers on Israeli goods, services, or other commerce imposed on the State of Israel.”

The Senate amendment does largely the same; both amendments clearly target the burgeoning Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement launched in 2005, a perfectly legal, nonviolent effort to honor international law and human rights conventions, and grant and restore rights to Palestinians. Both amendments also attempt to erase the inconvenient truth that the Occupation is illegal, and so is doing business with companies on the West Bank.

These amendments seek not only to facilitate, but also to normalize trade with West Bank and East Jerusalem settlement companies, under the guise that such trade is effectively as legitimate as trade with Israel itself. This move seeks to elide the actual, internationally recognized illegality of the Occupation and the specific illegality of doing business with settlement companies. Using the phrase “in Israel or in territories controlled by Israel,” the amendments merge the two as if they were one and the same.  And eerily, as J. J.Goldberg points out, the phrase is “identical to the language of an Israeli anti-boycott bill that was adopted by the Knesset in 2011 and upheld by Israel’s High Court of Justice days ago, punishing Israelis who advocate either type of boycott.”

At the level of the states, we find a similar effort to defeat BDS.  In Tennessee, the Algemeiner reports that Senate Joint Resolution 170 declares that the BDS movement is “one of the main vehicles for spreading anti-Semitism and advocating the elimination of the Jewish state.” Furthermore, the resolution states that the BDS movement and its agenda are “inherently antithetical and deeply damaging to the causes of peace, justice, equality, democracy and human rights for all the peoples in the Middle East.”

If this language sounds familiar, that’s because it is: The virulent attacks on BDS in Congress and in Tennessee precisely ventriloquize the words of Benjamin Netanyahu.  In a 2014 speech before AIPAC Netanyahu criticized BDS no fewer than 18 times:  “Attempts to boycott, divest and sanction Israel, the most threatened democracy on Earth, are simply the latest chapter in the long and dark history of anti-Semitism. Those who wear the BDS label should be treated exactly as we treat any anti-Semite or bigot. They should be exposed and condemned.”  Netanyahu’s comments simply rehearse the by-now-familiar equation between critics of Israeli state policies and anti-Semites in order to grant Israel immunity from reasonable questioning — like, for instance, contesting the claim that Israel is the “most threatened democracy on Earth,” when now we have coupled to that quote Netanyahu’s alarmist evocation of “droves” of “Israeli Arabs” coming to vote in the recent elections.  We now know who he feels is the greatest threat to “democracy,” and it’s not BDS. In a double-move, then, we find the collapsing of the distinction between Israel and its settlements, and between criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism.  The question is, do people buy this, and if so, for how long will they continue to do so?

And now the Indiana state Legislature has followed Tennessee’s in condemning BDS with its own resolution, in response to the success of students at the Quaker institution,Earlham College, who passed a divestment bill, and on Friday Illinois lawmakers will take up two anti-boycott measures:

According to the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), Illinois House Bill 4011 and Senate Bill 1761 contain a provision that requires state pension funds to “create blacklists of companies that boycott Israel because of its human rights violations, and mandates that they withdraw their investments from these companies.”The measure passed on the House floor and in the Senate judiciary committee on Tuesday.

CCR says that these bills “must be opposed in order to protect the right to engage in boycotts that reflect collective action to address a human rights issue, which the US Supreme Court has declared is protected speech and associational activity.”

It is clear that pressure from students on campuses across not just the United States, but also worldwide, along with boycott movements in professional organizations and unions, is drawing these reactive measures.  And as these measures are presented for votes, this is creating a dilemma for Democrats and liberals.

It is notable that after Netanyahu’s controversial appearance before Congress, which openly alienated the Obama administration and many congressional Democrats, and after his remark during the recent election that there would be no two-state solution under his watch, there was a supposed wedge driven in American politics with regard to the formerly solid support for Israel. Now, while Republicans are staunchly continuing or even increasing their support for Israel, grass-roots Democrats are beginning to split on the issue.  Yet the congressional amendments seem to indicate that an appreciable change has yet to occur at the leadership level, with even a Democrat such as Vargas signing on to this outlandish shell game.

Despite this, while in our Congress and statehouses we can see such efforts as testifying to the power of the Israel lobby, from outside these spaces we can see even more the tremendous effectiveness BDS actually has (why else center so much attention on it?).  It is indisputably the single most identifiable and powerful alternative to conventional diplomacy, which has for decades proven to be utterly ineffective in addressing the issues of Israel’s long-standing violations of international law and human rights conventions and covenants.  There is no doubt that with Netanyahu at the helm, any change will have to emanate from outside Israel, via an international consensus.  And that is what Israel is afraid of when it sees the successes of BDS.

In a statement released by Jewish Voice for Peace, Rabbi Joseph Berman noted: “This legislation, which actually encourages illegal settlement building while strengthening the far right in Israel, shows that BDS is an increasingly powerful means to challenge Israel’s impunity when it comes to Palestinian rights. We urge Congress to reject this legislation.”

What we find here is a battle for the political will of Democrats, and Democratic congressional leaders are increasingly likely to find themselves out of step with constituents unhappy with legislative support for colonization of the West Bank.


David Palumbo-Liu is the Louise Hewlett Nixon Professor at Stanford University. Follow him on Twitter at @palumboliu.

Will Qatar-Israel relations threaten PA’s relevance in Gaza? – Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East

via Will Qatar-Israel relations threaten PA’s relevance in Gaza? – Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East.

Palestinian workers clear the rubble of a school that witnesses said was destroyed by Israeli shelling during the most recent conflict between Israel and Hamas, in the east of Gaza City, Dec. 3, 2014. (photo by REUTERS/Suhaib Salem)



Ramallah, WEST BANK — The March 9 visit to Gaza by Qatari Ambassador Mohammad al-Amadi, also head of the Qatari National Committee for the Reconstruction of Gaza, and his meetings with Hamas and Israeli officials have aroused anger and fear within the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Fatah movement. An official Palestinian source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that the PA and Fatah are concerned about the potential marginalization “of the PA’s role in the reconstruction issue” after of the Qataris were reported to have sought direct Israeli approval for bringing reconstruction materials into Gaza for the construction projects they are funding.

The source said, “The PA fears the political implications hidden in the trenches of the Qatari initiatives and Qatar’s direct communication with Israel, particularly in terms of the proposed long-term bilateral truce between Hamas and Israel and the establishment of an airport and a seaport in Gaza.”

The source further stated, “Qatari involvement regarding a bilateral truce between Hamas and Israel means stepping around the PA’s role, leadership and position and ignoring Egypt’s sponsorship of the Palestinian issue with Israel.” He said it would result in “the separation of Gaza from the West Bank, the establishment of a separate entity in Gaza with Qatari funding, the marginalization of the powers of the PA and government in the Gaza Strip and the preservation of Hamas’ control on the ground and over the crossings.”

In Gaza, Amadi had announced that the start of new Qatari projects was drawing near, after crossing into the territory from Israel through the Erez crossing after Egypt refused to allow the Qatari delegation through the Rafah border crossing, which Arab officials typically use. Thus the still simmering Qatari-Egyptian dispute precipitated Qatar resorting to Israeli assistance.

New infrastructure projects for streets, schools, housing units and hospitals will be implemented as part of the Qataris’ pledge of $1 billion during the donors’ conference held in Egypt last October. Mofeed al-Hasayneh, Palestinian minister of public works and housing, told Al-Monitor that Qatar will also be working on the completion of projects already underway. A thousand housing units have been built, with a remaining 2,000 to go.

Meanwhile, after Amadi met with high-ranking Israeli officials on March 11, the Israeli media published leaked reports on Qatari mediation efforts for Gazan reconstruction and the signing of a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas. The leaks reinforced Fatah’s anxieties.

Amin Makboul, secretary-general of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council, explained to Al-Monitor that Fatah is concerned about “any direct communication with Israel, including the Qatari-Israeli communication regarding the Gaza Strip, the reconstruction issue or any other issue, out of fear that Israel will exploit it to separate Gaza from the West Bank, thwart the Palestinian state project and consolidate the separation.” Makboul clarified, however, “We support Gaza’s reconstruction.” He said that the most important question is, “Why did Qatar go to Israel directly?”

In an interview with Al-Monitor, one leading Hamas member, Ahmed Yousef, said he believes the Qatari move had been “in response to the suffering of the Gazans.” As a result, according to him, “There is no need for being angry or fearful, and there is no justification for any party whatsoever to offend Qatar.”

Yousef said, “The Qatari action resulted from the absence of the government and PA in Gaza. Had the PA assumed its role toward the Gaza Strip and embraced the citizens’ concerns and problems, Qatar, or any other party, would not have filled the void by working on the reconstruction projects directly.”

A government delegation headed by Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah visited Gaza March 25 at the behest of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The purpose, according to Hamdallah, was “to firmly establish the reconciliation and resume an inclusive national dialogue.” The visit took place a few days after mutual recriminations erupted between Hamas and Fatah when the Interior Ministry in Gaza accused PA security forces in Ramallah of spying and fomenting riots, and Fatah responded by accusing Hamas of similar actions.

According to Yousef, “The Qatari move toward the Gaza Strip prompted the PA and the Hamdallah government to visit Gaza and promise to find solutions to Gaza’s problems. It might have also embarrassed the government and the PA.”

He also stated, “The Qataris’ actions were probably a strong message to the PA that there are those who will fill the void and will work in case it does not act. The PA got it and turned its attention to Gaza.”

Ismail Haniyeh, deputy head of Hamas’ political bureau, said in a March 22 statement, “Hamas is not slamming the door on a truce with Israel, as part of the Palestinian national project,” potentially assuaging PA fears. This suggests that the Qatari initiative aimed at calming the situation between Gaza and Israel might see the light of day. Hamas has nonetheless assured the PA that it will only enter into a truce after consultations with all the national parties so the decision will be a Palestinian undertaking.

Concerning Qatari reconstruction assistance, Hasayneh told Al-Monitor, “The Qataris were told [by the PA] that the government is in charge of the reconstruction issue and that the work should be conducted through the Ministry of Civil Affairs, which is in charge of facilitating the entry of construction materials into Gaza, in coordination with Israel, and that no party is allowed to do otherwise.”

He also reiterated, “The president is fearful of Gaza being separated from the West Bank, which would destroy the dream of establishing a Palestinian state, so we welcome all donations through the government. Regardless of the Qatari ambassador’s meeting with the Israelis, the work must be conducted within governmental mechanisms and frameworks. This has been agreed upon with Ambassador Amadi.”

On March 19, Hussein al-Sheikh, Palestinian Minister of Civil Affairs in the PA government, received the Qatari construction dossier from Amadi. Sheikh told Al-Monitor, “Full coordination had been established with the Qataris before they came to the Gaza Strip and Israel. Everything the Qatari government is doing has been run by the Palestinian government.” He also said, “We are making every effort to facilitate the Qatari mission of reconstructing Gaza, and we have provided everything necessary. The government took the decision of exempting the Qatari grant from taxation.”

Jihad Harb, a political analyst and author, told Al-Monitor that the PA fears “Gaza being considered a state capable of concluding agreements, such as the agreements on the provision of fuel or electricity from Israel, with Qatari support and sponsorship.” He said that amid the regional bickering between Qatar and the alliance consisting of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, there are concerns that Gaza’s separation is part of Qatar’s ambition to become an influential actor in the region. If some of Gaza’s needs — such as electricity and construction materials — are met by Qatar, it might assume the role of mediator between Gaza and Israel, thus usurping the roles of the PA and Egypt. This could lure Hamas into trying to maintain its control over Gaza.

The occupation, ongoing suffering and siege of Gaza, wobbly reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas and institutional division and lack of resolutions of Gaza’s problems by the Palestinian government guarantee continued anxieties over fears of political projects and plans that will thwart the effort to establish a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders as part of the two-state solution to which the Palestine Liberation Organization has committed itself.